German floods: Leaders agree on €30-billion reconstruction fund for flood-hit regions

Published : August 11, 2021 13:31 IST

The floods in July devastated communities like this one in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler. Photo: Bram Janssen/AP/picture alliance

Regional and federal leaders have agreed to share the costs of rebuilding after July's devastating floods.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on August 10 that the federal government and leaders from Germany's 16 states have agreed on an aid package to help rebuild the areas that were devastated by heavy rain and flooding four weeks ago.

The reconstruction fund of €30 billion ($35 billion) was agreed upon during a video meeting between the state premiers and the federal government. The leaders agreed to take on the costs of rebuilding the towns and villages in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate that were hit by the flooding.

The chancellor said that the government cabinet would discuss the details of legislation required to release the funds next week. "This is a sign of national solidarity," she added.

Merkel grateful for support

Of the total sum, €28 billion will go to the two affected states and will be covered half by the 16 states and half by the federal government. The remaining €2 billion will be paid for just by the federal government and will cover infrastructure such as railways, roads and bridges.

Merkel celebrated the "great joint willingness to help the people in this extraordinary situation who have been hit by devastation." She also expressed her gratitude for the popular support shown by people all across Germany. "We are endlessly grateful for such an extensive willingness to help… that so many volunteers are still helping today," the chancellor said.

Reconstruction will take years

The Association of Towns and Municipalities in Rhineland Palatinate welcomed the agreement by the state and federal leaders, but warned of possible unforeseen costs of reconstruction. "Since the infrastructure has been completely destroyed, roads, squares, kindergartens, schools, administrative buildings and supply networks will have to be largely rebuilt and at least in some places rebuilt from scratch in new locations, meaning the scale may exceed current estimates," the association said.

Christof Sommer, head of the association in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia said it was encouraging that an aid package had been agreed on so quickly. He also highlighted the importance of simple processes and access to the funds. "The reconstruction of local areas and infrastructure will take years, and the adaptation to climate change will demand extra efforts," he said.

Warning system faces criticism

At least 190 people were killed in the flooding, and countless homes, business and critical infrastructure were destroyed. Merkel and the state premiers also agreed to invest up to €88 million into upgrading Germany's warning system and for the states to install new sirens by 2032.

Authorities came under heavy criticism in the wake of the floods as people questioned whether enough had been done to warn or evacuate residents of those areas that were hit hardest. Prosecutors last week announced that they were launching an investigation into an official in the Ahrweiler region over reports of negligence and delayed warnings that allegedly resulted in dozens of deaths.

ab/wmr (AFP, dpa)

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